Broken Kingdom, the writing and directorial debut of Daniel Gillies (perhaps best known form his role in The Vampire Diaries), finally gets unveiled to the world next week, along with its companion documentary Kingdom Come.
Most of the plot of Broken Kingdom, the narrative film of the two, seems at first glance underwritten—a broken, haggard, haunted man who calls himself “80” (Gillies himself) wanders the streets of Bogota, Colombia, finally falling in with a very young prostitute. Back in the United States, a woman named Marilyn (Rachael Leigh Cook) begins a romantic relationship. That’s about it, for most of the movie.
But what you’re coming for isn’t twists and turns of plot. You’re coming for, in large part, an intriguing atmosphere of mystery and momentousness. There’s a very real, unmanufactured sense that large issues are at play in each of these lives. 80’s agonizing silence and, eventually, Marilyn’s nervous energy, underscore the gravity of the situations, whatever those situations may be.
Gillies is nearly unrecognizable for fans of his role in The Vampire Diaries; his character hides behind greasy bangs, a long bushy beard, and evasive eyes. He’s a writer who’s found it impossible to write, and his frustration and self-loathing virtually drip off the screen. Stony silence is a difficult role to pull off, and in many actors’ hands in comes across as blank and shallow. But Gillies’ soulful performance imbues his struggle with a nobility of spirit that animates what could have been a very forbidding performance. You want to get behind those eyes.